‘Time-wasting nonsense’ - Panton criticises Trafigura appeal going to Privy Council
Justice Seymour Panton, retired president of Jamaica’s Court of Appeal, has labelled as “time-wasting nonsense”, the ongoing Trafigura court case involving former Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and four other People’s National Party (PNP) functionaries that is now before the London-based Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.
Panton chided the country’s lawmakers for continuing to rely on outside judges to determine the fate of Jamaicans, especially when there were competent and fair local judges to carry out such duties.
“The reputation of our judges is such that I cannot for the life of me understand why Jamaica’s Parliament has allowed us, after 59 years of so-called independence status, to be still going to England to get answers to some very simple questions and for a final determination of some very simple cases,” said Panton.
He was delivering the keynote address yesterday at the commissioning of the latest cohort of justices of the peace at the Montego Bay Convention Centre in St James.
“This week, I am listening to the radio and I heard about lawyers in Kingston asking some judges in England if some people here should give evidence on oath in open court or in secret,” Panton said in reference to the ongoing Trafigura court case.
“Can you imagine going to England to ask a question like that? Time-wasting nonsense,” remarked Panton. “Jamaican judges have a reputation of being fair, by not allowing outside matters to influence their determinations.”
Earlier this week, the Judicial Committee of the London-based Privy Council reserved judgment in the latest legal challenge filed by the former PNP president and her associates in the Trafigura matter.
Although Jamaica became an independent nation in 1962, the United Kingdom Privy Council remains Jamaica’s final appellate court. That court is now to decide the next step in a case that has been stalled by legal challenges for more than a decade.
The decision to reserve judgment was announced on Monday after the panel of judges heard legal arguments from attorneys out of the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) and the five PNP functionaries.
The case stems from the request by authorities in The Netherlands for Simpson Miller; former PNP chairman, Robert Pickersgill; current PNP chairman, Phillip Paulwell; former general secretary, Colin Campbell, and businessman Norton Hinds to answer questions about a $31-million donation to the party in 2006 by Dutch firm Trafigura Beheer. The ODPP is Jamaica’s designated Central Authority under the Mutual Assistance (Criminal Matters) Act.
The donation was made while Jamaica, under the leadership of the then Simpson Miller administration, had an oil-lifting agreement with Trafigura. Dutch firms are prohibited from making donations to foreign governments.
In 2011, Hinds began answering questions in the Supreme Court when the case was halted by a stay of proceedings granted by the Court of Appeal after lawyers for Simpson Miller and the other PNP functionaries challenged the decision of the presiding judge, Justice Lennox Campbell, that they should answer questions from Dutch authorities in open court.
Campbell’s decision was upheld by the Court of Appeal following a challenge by the PNP officials. The PNP officials then applied for and were granted leave to take the matter to the Privy Council.